Great Learning

William Penn Foundation Launches New Initiative to Connect Cultural Institutions, Literacy and Families in Eight Philadelphia Communities

Posted: Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Source: William Penn Foundation

Informal Learning Initiative created through partnership with 18 nonprofit organizations

PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 6, 2017) – Museums, parks, libraries and other community destinations are important places where children naturally – and informally – make new discoveries, deepen their interests and engage in learning. Today, the William Penn Foundation announced a new, community-based initiative to connect these critical, informal learning opportunities with children and families in low-income neighborhoods. The Informal Learning Initiative consists of 18 nonprofit partners that are teaming up to design eight fresh, literacy-rich opportunities where parents, or other caregivers, and their children can experience creative play and discovery geared to developing early literacy skills – vocabulary, oral language, writing and comprehension skills.

"There is very strong evidence that shows young children learn best in engaging and interactive environments with meaningful content, and places like museums, community centers, parks and playgrounds are particularly suitable for such experiences. What the Informal Learning Initiative is designed to do is level the playing field by creating high-quality programming embedded in communities across the city and removing barriers like cost and transportation to provide access to our fantastic cultural institutions for low-income families, " said Elliot Weinbaum, Great Learning Program Director, William Penn Foundation.
  
The two-year initiative is building important partnerships between cultural institutions like The Barnes Foundation, The Franklin Institute, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and Fleisher Art Memorial with organizations like Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Children's Village, People's Emergency Center and others that have deep roots in the low-income communities they serve. The intention is for these partnerships to take early learning programming directly to families in ways that not only engage children, but also involve adults as active participants by building their skills to support language and literacy learning at home. "That means programs are offered at no cost and at times and places that families can get to without too much trouble. It also means that the programs are focused on education for adults and children alike," said Weinbaum.

Weinbaum added that the eight programs are expected to serve approximately 1,780 children across Philadelphia. The Initiative will also evaluate effectiveness by measuring changes in children's interest, abilities and engagement with literacy, as well as caregiver attitudes, knowledge and skills, as measured by pre- and post-surveys, assessments, interviews and observations.

This initiative is aligned with the city-wide Read by 4th campaign (www.readby4th.org) to help all children be proficient readers by the time they start fourth grade. “This Initiative advances two of the main goals of Read by 4th – helping families to engage in literacy-building activities with their children and making sure that every community in Philadelphia has access to literacy-rich programming,” said Jenny Bogoni, Executive Director of Read by 4th. “We are really thrilled that William Penn Foundation has helped to bring more partners to our efforts, engaging even more of our city’s institutions in meeting a very clear set of goals for Philadelphia children,” Bogoni said.

The Informal Learning Initiative partnerships and programs include:
Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University with Congreso de Latinos Unidos and ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania – This partnership is developing "Discover, Play, Share," a pretend play and natural science program that will reach children ages 3-8 and their families in North Philadelphia. The free programs will feature eight three-hour Family Literacy sessions at Congreso and ASPIRA; eight 90-minute Family Literacy sessions at the Academy of Natural Sciences; six 90-minute Learn & Play Days at Congreso and ASPIRA; and four day-long Family Museum Days at the Academy of Natural Sciences. For more information, contact Desi Broadhurst at 215-299-1100 or db853@drexel.edu. 

The Barnes Foundation with Puentes de Salud – "Puentes a las Artes" or "Bridges to the Arts," a bilingual art-based program, will target children ages 3-5 and their families in Southeast Philadelphia.  Free programs will feature eight one-hour Family Workshops at Puentes de Salud; two 25-week series, each series consisting of 50 one-hour sessions at Southwark School ; 20 90-minute Family Storytime visits to the Barnes; and two three-hour Family Day visits to the Barnes. For more information, contact Barbara Wong at bwong@barnesfoundation.org  (www.barnesfoundation.org) or Alexandra Wolkoff at alexandra.wolkoff@puentesdesalud.org (www.puentesdesalud.org).

Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium with Indochinese American Council – "Nature, Play, Read," a pretend play program about aquatic sciences, is designed to reach children ages 3-8 and their families in the Olney and Logan neighborhoods of North Philadelphia. This free program will include 16 three-hour Family Literacy sessions at Indo-Chinese American Council and two additional sites; eight 90-minute Family Literacy sessions at Adventure Aquarium; six 90-minute Learn & Play Days at Indo-Chinese American Council and two additional sites; and four three-hour Family Museum Days at the Aquarium.  For more information, contact Angela Wenger at 856-361-1011 or visit http://www.aquaticsciences.org.

Fairmount Water Works with Mander Recreation Center – "The Watershed is an Open Book" will be a free outdoor exploration program about the urban watershed for children ages 3-5 and their families in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood of North Philadelphia.  The program will include six 12-week, seasonal series, each consisting of nine 90-minute sessions at Mander and three 90-minute sessions at Fairmount Water Works; and two eight-week summer series, consisting of six 90-minute sessions at Mander and two 90-minute sessions at Fairmount Water Works.  For more information, contact Ellen Schultz at 215-685-0721 or Ellen.Schultz@phila.gov.

The Franklin Institute with Children's Village – "Family Science Storytime" will be a hands-on science and literacy program for children ages 3-8 and their families in the Chinatown neighborhood, pairing children’s books with hands-on science explorations for the whole family.   The program will include 16 family events hosted by Children's Village; 20 Community Night events at The Franklin Institute; and four s professional development sessions for Children's Village educators and interpreters.  For more information, contact Julia Skolnik at jskolnik@fi.edu or visit www.fi.edu.

Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse with Parent-Child Home Program, Inc. (PCHP) managed by Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC)  – “Everyday Literacy” is a play-based family program children ages 0-5 and their families in North Philadelphia. The program will run 12 two-and-a-half-hour sessions at Raymond Rosen Community Center, a Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) site available to all PHA families and those who participate in PCHP's home visiting services; and 12 two-and-a-half-hour sessions at Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse.  For more information, contact Kate Zmich at 215-765-4325 (x 103) or visit www.smithplayground.org/everydayliteracy.

Samuel S. Fleisher Arts Memorial with Sunrise of Philadelphia – "Our Stories" is an art-based family literacy program about oral and visual traditions for children ages 5 to 8 and their families in Southeast Philadelphia. It will offer eight 10-week Artist Residency cycles, each cycle consisting of 10 90-minute sessions in two community-based sites; 18 three-hour Family Engagement workshops at Fleisher; and five three-hour culminating community events at Fleisher.  For more information, contact Kasey Thompson at kthompson@sunriseofphila.org or visit www.SunriseofPhila.org.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) with Families Forward Philadelphia and the People's Emergency Center (PEC) – "Young Chefs Community Literacy Initiative," an interactive cooking, gardening and literacy program, will engage children ages 0-8 and their families who have experienced, or are experiencing, homelessness in West Philadelphia. The program will include 24 two-hour Books and Cooks events at the Health and Wellness garden in Karabots Pediatric Care Center; six two-hour Seasonal Celebration Fairs at Karabots Pediatric Care Center; and 24 one-hour literacy coaching sessions at Families Forward Philadelphia and PEC emergency housing shelters. For more information, contact Nicol Moody at 215-240-4816 (x1690) or nmoody@familiesforwardphilly.org.

About the William Penn Foundation
The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. In partnership with others, the Foundation works to advance opportunity, ensure sustainability, and enable effective solutions. Since inception, the Foundation has made nearly 10,000 grants totaling over $1.6 billion. The Foundation’s assets exceed $2.3 billion as of March 31, 2016.